designed by Matthias Cramer, Louis Malz, & Stefan Malz, published by Eagle Games
Go behind the scenes of the grand court of King Louis as the dressmaker for Parisian nobility. Begin each round by choosing three employees from your unused employees and then send them one and at time to perform one of five actions: hire a new worker, buy some dressmaking materials, add to the fabulous décor of the hall, or, make a fancy dress to sell for income or to clothe a courtier and send them to the hall to show off your fine work, or even fire or “depute” your employees for some quick extra cash. Plus, each worker can provide you with a bonus action, so between 4-8 actions per round over seven rounds As you get more workers you will get more actions, but it will take you longer to cycle through your workers to get the ones you need. Fill the grand hall with the most dresses, claim the most decorations, and earn points, and bonus points, for practically everything. Scoring is clever, but man, it takes a while.
Can’t get more Euro than this: Action selection? Check. Point salad? Check. Area control? Check. Resource management? Check. Limited actions in limited turns? Check. Analysis Paralysis? Double Check.
One Line Verdict: Seriously, for fans of Eurogames only. All others sign up for the Revolution (French, that is) instead.
“XCOM: The Board Game”
designed by Eric M. Lang, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Take command of the XCOM and defend the Earth from marauding aliens! Based on the video game of the same name, each player takes on a different role of the elite XCOM organization: from planning scientific research to deploying air defense fighters to ordering ground troops to making sure all this stuff comes under budget. All of this is done in a real-time decision making phase controlled by a free, downloadable app that is required to play the game. After this, nerve-jangling, tension-filled decision making phase, the game slows down into a resolution phase where you can watch all your smart, lightning-quick decisions be undone by crappy dice rolling.
A totally different experience from the video game, whose heart is basically a tactical turn-based shooter with a larger resource management overlay. This game definitely focuses more on the resource management and quick decision-making with the tactical fighting basically abstracted, but still a nerve-wracking blast overall.
One Line Verdict: Join this particular fight, unless you really hate randomness. In that case, watch the world be destroyed from a distance.
designed by Bruno Faidutti, published by Fantasy Flight Games
Build your destiny in this game of “medieval cities, nobles, and intrigues” (yup, from the box). Each round, players will draft a noble from the common pool and then pass the remaining nobles to the left. Each noble has a special power: for example, the assassin lets you “kill” another noble and take away their turn, while the king scores points depending on the buildings you have already built and lets you go first the next round. The thief lets you steal gold from another player while the warlord lets you destroy one of your opponent’s buildings. Players take turns also depending on the number of the noble: 1 goes first, 8 goes last. When your turn comes up, take 2 gold or draw a card, then build a card, and at some point, you can activate the special power of your noble. First player to built 8 buildings in their district ends the game, most points win!
Really, a social deduction game as you try to figure out who has what so you can either avoid getting your character’s throat slit or figuring out which character’s throat to slit. Even though it’s the older game, it feels very much like next-level “Love Letter” with the added dimension of building your district.
One Line Verdict: I would say a modern classic for good reason, but can be seriously mean. I mean SERIOUSLY.
“Lanterns: The Harvest Festival”
designed by Christopher Chung, published by Renegade Game Studios
Create beautiful floating lantern displays and win the favor of the Emperor in this gorgeous tile-laying game. Players start with three lake tiles in their hand. You collect lantern cards as you lay the multi-colored tiles around the lake. Each player will collect a lantern card that matches the direction that they are seated around the table. Earn bonus cards by matching lanterns of the same color to tiles already on the table. Score points by dedications: turning in lanterns in different sets (four of kind, three different pairs, or one of each color) at the beginning of your turn. Earn favor tokens by placing lake tiles next to special platforms on some tiles, and use those tokens to trade in lantern cards for the colors that you will need. The player with the most points from dedication tiles after all the tiles are placed wins!
Tricky tile-laying strategies as you try to maximize the cards you get while avoiding giving your opponents the cards they need as well. Time your actions carefully, as you can only score points at the beginning of the round with your dedications, and the amount of points you earn from dedications decrease with each dedication. Another game of seemingly great beauty and serenity that ends up in cut-throat action as you watch your opponent invariably dedicate one turn before you can.
One Line Verdict: Simple and elegant gameplay allow for complex strategies in this beautiful game.
designed by Steffen Bogen, published by Z-Man Games
Can a game about racing cartoon animals around a pyramid and then betting on what is basically a randomly determined result really be a Spiel des Jahres winner? As it turns out, yes. On your turn take one of several options: bet on the winner of a leg, try to sneakily influence the movement of the camels by placing a desert tile in their path, bet on the OVERALL winner or loser of the race, or move a camel randomly by pulling a die out of the pyramid. The camel matching the color of the die that appears from the pyramid will move that many spaces around the track. But, if a camel ends his turn on another camel, he will create a stack of camels, and the whole stack moves together, creating an insane image of a pile of camels moving around a track. After all five camels have moved, winnings are collected by according to the betting tiles, and the next leg begins!
Great movement mechanic that keeps the game tense and picking up betting tiles really amps up the excitement in a sort of chunky, fun way. But it really is about playing the odds and understanding how the camels will move.
One Line Verdict: If you hate randomness, avoid this game like the plague. All other will have some light, gateway fun cheering, and guessing, and betting.